Believe it or not, newly-minted U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland was a basketball player before taking up golf. So who would have guessed that a rough game against one of the NCAA’s blue bloods would make him change sports.
Woodland played for Division II Washburn University on a basketball scholarship, but ultimately transferred to Kansas after his freshman year to play golf on a scholarship. Before leaving Washburn, he was humbled by his future school.
He revealed in an interview with ESPN that an exhibition game against Kansas made him realize that he “needed to find something else.” The Jayhawks beat Washburn in the game 79-70, making Woodland realize that he “couldn’t keep up” defensively.
“Offensively, I was fine. I could get around, I could do stuff, but defensively I wasn’t quick enough. I couldn’t keep up. That was the biggest thing. And that was at the Division II level. You talk about Division I level. Our first game was at KU and I learned quickly I needed to find something else.”
Woodland would help lead the Ichabods to their third straight conference title and a trip to Division II NCAA Tournament before leaving.
As a member of the Jayhawks golf team, Woodland would go on to win several tournaments before turning professional in 2007.
He spent the majority of his professional golfing career without making a single top ten before a sixth-place finish at the 2018 PGA Championship.
And now he’s the 2019 U.S. Open champion.